Loom (operation)

How to conceive the space of operation? I am thinking of the operation of the Loom subdivision algorithms – their actual running. Can the sphere of operation be conceived in terms of Saussure’s distinction between langue and parole – with the underlying algorithms representing the systematic character of language and their concrete operation representing the sphere of speech (performance)? An important issue, however, is that while Saussure positions parole as essentially derivative of the abstractly constituted and notionally finite linguistic system, more recent theorists have stressed how performance itself works to transform langue. The actual historical process of speech no longer appears entirely subservient to the underlying system. This is evident, for instance, in Certeau’s emphasis on the various complex micro-level tactics of resistance that remove cultural processes of consumption from any simple domination by systems of production (strategic power), distancing consumption from any sense of passive operation – positioning it instead as active, interpretive and resistive.1 We can also think of Serres notion of parasitical noise, in which the purity of a message is inevitably preyed upon as soon as it ventures within the play of mediation.2 Noise, as entropy, as indirection, as material filter undermines the autonomy and constitutive force of any framework of abstract determination. In the case of Certeau, systemicity is upset by the dimension of social praxis. Serres points to more general and more directly material forces. It seems harder to apply Certeau’s conception of resistance to computational operation – where, after all, can we recognise anything like the small, idiosyncratic tactics of human consumption within the whirling space of binary processes? Where is there scope for idioms of freedom and play, except in the sense of a failure of operation (program logic errors, input-output errors, basic technical faults, etc.)? Serres conception of noise seems more relevant, except that my interest is less in stressing all the deviations from proper program operation than of pinpointing a work of operation that obeys all the rules and yet still retains its alien, impenetrable character. Parole (program operation) relates to langue (programmatic system) as an abyss, as something that summons the need for systems and also motions beyond them – motioning precisely through a faultless play of operation. Operation, in this sense, is aporiatic.

  1. Certeau, M. 1984 The Practice of Everyday Life (translated by Stephen Rendell), University of California Press, Berkeley
  2. Serres, 2007 M. The Parasite (translated by Lawrence Schehr), University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis
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